WILMINGTON – The Coastal Land Trust, a conservation group serving 31 coastal plain counties, announced on Thursday it had closed on recent projects to protect natural areas in Gates and Brunswick counties.
The trust said its Gates County project involved the purchase of a 950-acre tract on the Chowan River, a deal that links conservation lands between the two states. The tract is between 30,000-acres of the Chowan Swamp Game Lands owned by the state and 3,100-acres of the South Quay Nature Preserve owned by Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The property was transferred to the state and will be managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission to benefit its diverse wildlife, including black bear, bobcat, barred owl and bobwhite quail.
The trust bought the property Dec. 16, 2016, from International Paper Co. for a price “considerably less” than its market value, according to the announcement.
“This project exemplifies the ABC’s of the Coastal Land Trust’s land conservation strategy which is to Assist, Buffer and/or Connect existing conservation lands along our coast. We thank International Paper Company and the Wildlife Resources Commission for working with us to acquire this ecologically significant property,” Janice Allen, deputy director of the trust, said in a statement.
Tommy Hughes of the Wildlife Resources Commission, added, “Partnering with Coastal Land Trust works to each of our strengths – theirs is to write grants and conserve land, and ours is to manage lands for wildlife and public use. With this project, we have added another valuable property to the Chowan Swamp Game Lands which will be available to hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and others to enjoy for many years to come.”
In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, the property hosts more than 7 miles of forested land along the Chowan River and Somerton Creek, more than 430 acres of wetlands and a significant natural heritage area, the Wyanoke Sandhills, a longleaf pine-scrub oak forest along an ancient dune ridge.
Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Fred and Alice Stanback donor-advised fund, and the Wildlife Resources Commission.
Also in December, Marty Lanier of Brunswick County made year-end gift to the Coastal Land Trust, a perpetual landowner agreement, or conservation easement, covering his more-than 57-acre property along Slab Branch, a Town Creek tributary.
“I grew up camping, playing, and hunting on this property and have a deep appreciation for forest land,” Lanier said. “I inherited this land from my father who took care of it, now I am taking care of it, and I plan to pass it on to my son and daughter to do the same. The longleaf pine forest is part of our Southern heritage.”
The Trust described Lanier’s property as “a conservation gem,” saying it fits in perfectly with the organization’s efforts to protect a forested corridor along an ecologically significant waterway. “What makes this property particularly impressive is its stunning longleaf pine forest expertly managed through the years by Mr. Lanier not only for the forest, but also for the many wildlife species that depend on it, including the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker,” according to the announcement.
The Lanier family property is in an area the Coastal Land Trust has focused on since its founding almost 25 years ago. Town Creek’s headwaters rise at the edge of Green Swamp and flow some 30 miles east to its confluence with the Cape Fear River. “Its waters, wetlands and forests all supply rich habitat for wildlife, and the lands along its banks are equally rich in historic, cultural, and recreational values,” according to the announcement.
With this new project, the trust has protected more than 17,000 acres along the lower Cape Fear River in Brunswick County, including 7,000 acres along Town Creek alone. This includes the Brunswick Nature Park, a 900-acre nature preserve, which is now open to the public and managed by Brunswick County.
A grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund provided funds for the Coastal Land Trust’s expenses associated with this conservation transaction.